Solar jobs up in Wisconsin as national numbers decline

Wisconsin saw a 4 percent gain in solar jobs last year even as solar jobs numbers dipped nationwide, according to the latest report from The Solar Foundation.

This year’s National Solar Jobs Census is the eighth annual report on solar employment from the national nonprofit group. It found 250,271 Americans worked in solar as of 2017 — down 3.8 percent from 2016. This is the first year the country’s solar jobs total has dropped in the report since 2010.

“After six years of rapid and steady growth, the solar industry faced headwinds that led to a dip in employment in 2017, including a slowdown in the pace of new solar installations,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation.

But overall, the long-term trend shows the national solar workforce has increased by 168 percent in the past seven years. And solar jobs increased last year in the majority of states.

“The fact that jobs went up in 29 states is an encouraging sign that solar is taking hold across the country as a low-cost, sustainable, and reliable energy source,” Luecke said.

The number of solar jobs in Wisconsin rose from 2,813 in 2016 to 2,921 in 2017, for a gain of 4 percent. The state was ranked 23rd for solar jobs, and 27th for solar jobs per capita.

And the ratio of solar workers to overall workforce rose from 1:1,021 in 2016 to 1:994 in 2017.

Nationally, demand-side sectors — which make up over 75 percent of overall solar industry employment — lost about 7,500 jobs in 2017. That includes installation, sales and distribution, and project management. And manufacturing — which makes up about 15 percent — lost about 1,200 jobs.

Based on comparisons with numbers from 2016, the national solar industry employs twice as many workers as the coal industry, about five times as many as nuclear, and almost as many as the natural gas industry. But solar energy represents only 2 percent of overall U.S. energy generation.

A solar employee was defined as someone who spends at least 50 percent of his or her time on solar-related work.

This report was based on a survey of solar businesses conducted between October and November 2017. That included 59,300 phone calls and over 35,000 emails. Info was gathered from 2,389 establishments, of which 1,842 completed the survey.

Some of the most improved states for solar employment last year were: Delaware, with 51 percent more workers; Minnesota, with 48 percent; Iowa, 45 percent; and Utah, 40 percent.

The two top states for solar jobs — California and Massachusetts — both experienced decreases last year. California’s solar jobs number went down 14 percent to 86,414; and Massachusetts’ number went down 21 percent to 11,530.

The percentage of solar employees that struggled to find qualified candidates for open positions fell from 22.7 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in 2017. States with rapidly growing solar markets seem to have more trouble with hiring, the report shows.

See the full report here:

–By Alex Moe